compassion (5)

HOW TO YOU WORK FOR SUCCESS?






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I am writing especially to you who are pastors, but much of what I have to say will apply to any believer in Jesus Christ. I suspect that much of what is pressed upon us by the church growth movement and its widely accepted continuations are little more than superstition. Some of these things remind me of the labors of Jacob in the 30th chapter of Genesis. Jacob put striped sticks before the eyes of the livestock while they were breeding so that they would bear striped and spotted offspring which were to be his wages. 

I have recently been trying to memorize chapter by chapter through Genesis. And frankly, I had great difficulty with this chapter. I did not believe for a minute that what those animals saw had any relation to how their offspring turned out. However, I am pretty sure that Jacob believed it while he was doing it. And low and behold, it worked! Jacob became extremely rich. That may be the mantra of some in the church growth movement. Whatever works must be right. 

I didn't really get any peace about this until I was into the 31st chapter, and discovered that at least eventually Jacob found out that his strategy was not what increased his flocks. And Moses had to have known it when he penned chapter 30. God made the animals produce the offspring that were designated as Jacob's wages, not his machinations.

Now, let me say emphatically that the Bible teaches that God and God alone adds numerically to His church. I am aware that by God's grace and in union with God's Spirit we, like Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:11, seek to persuade people. But we do not do it with cleverness, sidestepping truth that is uncomfortable, or appealing to worldliness. We persuade in the fear of God, the conviction of the word of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

This is not to say that you can never bring success by gimmicks. I once heard someone quip, "That church would have grown if there wasn't a God." But I strongly suspect that if you reach people by any means but the movement of the Holy Spirit, they are still lost. And they will often do harm to the fellowship before they leave completely.

What then can we do to become successful? Let me suggest some things that lead to long-term success, at least in the eyes of God.

  1. Seek to grow in the Lord by saturating yourself in God's word.
  2. Seek to grow in the Lord as you obey what God shows you of His will.
  3. Pray earnestly and lead others to pray for God's will and work in their lives and in His church
  4. Pray for people all around you, and help others pray for deep connections with people who need to hear the gospel.
  5. Compassionately minister to needs that God shows you.
  6. Consistently teach and train your people to walk with God and touch the lives of others.
The scriptures give us the fodder for this kind of development and teaching. Things like the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5 and those things that pertain to life and godliness listed in 2 Peter 1 and in many other Scripture passages that God enlightens in your heart, in your preaching and teaching, for your organization and encouragement of the flock, and in the lives of your people.

http://thinkinginthespirit.blogspot.com/
http://theanchorofthesoul.blogspot.com/
http://watchinginprayer.blogspot.com/
http://writingprayerfully.blogspot.com/

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From Church Culture to Mission Culture

Joe and Mary enter the church and talk to long-term friends. They get a cup of coffee and ask how Sarah how she’s enjoying their new house. Joe and Mary sit down in their familiar seats by the center aisle so they can leave quickly. They sing some songs, hear a message, and then go home.

A church culture has dominated a mission culture in many of our churches. Too many "Christians" are busy playing church instead of seeking the heart of Jesus. As a result, the church is declining in the US.  Jesus’ example and teaching in Luke 5 helps us change a church culture to a mission culture.

1. Obey Jesus’ word
After not catching any fish, Jesus asked Simon to let down his nets in deep water for a catch. By obeying His word, their nets broke with so many fish.  Simon Peter fell down at Jesus' feet saying he was sinful. Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." They left everything and followed Him (Luke 5:1-11).  Obey Jesus' word and admit sinfulness to bear fruit in evangelism.

2. Pray for spiritual power
A leper was cured immediately when he saw Jesus and begged to be made clean. Jesus ordered him to see a priest and make an offering for his cleansing as Moses commanded and as a testimony. News spread as great multitudes gathered to hear Jesus and be healed of their sicknesses.  Often times, Jesus would slip away to pray alone (Luke 5:12-16).  Pray to provide power for physical and spiritual healing

3. Show compassion for sinners
Because of the crowd, some men carrying a paralyzed man went up on the roof and let him down through tiles to set him in front of Jesus. So skeptical and condemning Pharisees would "know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," the paralyzed man rose from his stretcher where he had been lying and went home, giving glory to God (Luke 5:17-26). Show compassion instead of condemning sinners.  

4. Share a clear verbal witness
Jesus told a tax-gatherer named Levi to follow Him. He left everything behind and followed Him (Luke 5:27-28). Witness verbally and challenge people to follow Christ so they will repent.

5. Socialize with those who need to know Jesus
After Levi invited other tax-gatherers and gave a big reception for Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes grumbled at His disciples saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax-gatherers and sinners?" Jesus answered that since the sick need a physician, He was calling sinners to repentance, not the righteous (Luke 5:29-32). Influence sinners by having meals and personal relationships. 

6. Delight in God's presence
The religious leaders said John's and Pharisees' disciples fast and offer prayers, but "Yours eat and drink." Jesus answered that it was appropriate for his disciples not to fast since He, as the bridegroom, was present with them now and not later (Luke 5:33-35). Delight in God's presence and have fun relating with others

7. Use new methods
One doesn't tear a piece from a new garment and put it on an old garment since it won't match the old. You also don't "put new wine into old wineskins, otherwise the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, 'The old is good enough'" (Luke 5:36-39). Use new methods for greater effectiveness in making disciples.

To move from a church culture to a mission culture, I will do the following:
1.  Obey Jesus' word and admit sinfulness to bear fruit in evangelism
2. Pray for physical and spiritual healing
3. Show compassion instead of condemning sinners
4. Witness verbally and challenge people to follow Christ so they will repent
5. Influence sinners by having meals and personal relationships
6. Delight in God's presence and have fun relating with others
​7. Use new methods for greater effectiveness in making disciples

For more posts, go to www.markpomeroy.com ;

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Thanksgiving, Ferguson, and the Kindness of God

This Thanksgiving I find myself reflecting on the responsibilities we all have when we realize how blessed we are. On this day when we recount the blessings we’ve received from God, it’s also a great time to ask ourselves how we can BE a blessing to others (Genesis 12:2).

One day King David woke up with this same quest on his mind:  (2 Samuel 9:3)

If you know David’s story, he had experienced lots of hardships on his way to becoming king and fulfilling his destiny. As part of God’s training process, he had overcome lions, bears, giants, and a deranged, homicidal king. At times he had to run for his life, living in caves and other dark places.

But by the time we get to this episode in 2 Samuel 9, David was feeling overwhelmed by how much God had blessed him. He recognized that he had abundantly received “the kindness of God.” And as a natural by-product, he wanted to find someone to share the blessings with.

Sounds something like Thanksgiving, doesn’t it?

David had a particular desire to bless those from the lineage of his former enemy, King Saul. What a great example this is for us. Perhaps there’s someone you need to reach out to who was once your nemesis. Maybe there was friction or suspicion in the past, but it’s time to overcome all of that with kindness and generosity.

Remember the Pilgrims and the Native Americans? Talk about cultural differences! But what if we could reenact that same kind of spirit in our cities today, where police officers and the black community sat down to break bread and share their resources together?

In David’s case, the options were pretty limited. It turned out that the only person left of Saul descendants was a bitter, crippled man named Mephibosheth.  This son of Jonathan was living in a desolate place called Lo Debar, and his self-image was so low that he considered himself no better than a “dead dog” (v. 8).

Just the kind of person you should invite to your home for Thanksgiving, don’t you think?!

Remember: When you’re looking for people to show kindness to, they might not be the easiest people to love! In fact, you can count on the fact that the people who need love the most will be the hardest to love.

But love them anyway.

Mephibosheth was described to David in such a way that the king might have been reluctant to get involved with such an unsavory character. Yet David immediately had the man brought to Jerusalem to eat at the king’s table—just as if Mephibosheth was one of David’s own sons (v. 11).

Thanksgiving is a time for families, of course. But it also can be a great time to invite someone else to sit at your table, as David did with Mephiboseth.

I’m feeling blessed today, and I hope you are as well. If so, is there someone you can show the kindness of God?

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Reflecting the 4 Faces of Jesus

Recently a friend and I were discussing some of the hot-button issues in our country today. We mentioned such things as gay marriage, abortion, healthcare, and income inequality, to name a few.

We all have our opinions on such things, of course. As believers, our opinions hopefully have been shaped by God’s principles and wisdom found in the Scriptures. In a world filled with moral relativism, we desperately need the Word of God as a plumb line to reveals our off-kilter values and behaviors (Amos 7:7-8).

But while discussing these things with my friend, I saw that being right on the issues is only half the battle. If are beliefs are right, but our attitudes are wrong, no one will be impacted in a positive way. Instead of having a platform to transform our society, we will either be ignored or ridiculed—and we’ll have only ourselves to blame.

So, while some people are too timid to address the hot-button issues at all, others undercut their message because of a calloused, unloving attitude toward their audience. They may be “speaking the truth,” but they are failing to do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

No wonder we’ve lost our audience and become largely irrelevant in the debates over the pressing social issues of our day. How sad.

The Message and the Heart

As I’ve pondered this unfortunate state of affairs, I’ve concluded that two problems must be remedied. First, our message must regain its clarity. The apostle Paul warned, “If the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8) Where are the pulpits and publications today that are trumpeting a clear message from God instead of just spiritual mumbo jumbo? Too often, we sound more like politicians than preachers, coming down on each side of every issue. No one will be moved to action by that kind of indistinct trumpet sound.

But as important as it is for our message to regain laser-like clarity, the other problem is perhaps even more urgent: We must speak our message with the heart and “face” of Jesus. This gets back to the attitude and spirit in which our message is delivered. Correct words become hollow and impotent unless spoken with a correct heart (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Perhaps you’ve never given it much thought, but this is a crucial issue. If the body of Christ is supposed to express Jesus’ “face” to today’s world, what expression should that be? Anger? Accommodation? Confrontation? Fear? Smugness? Disinterest?

I’ve concluded that there are actually four “faces of Jesus” presented in Scripture, and these provide us with a helpful glimpse of what our posture should be as we interact with our society. We see these four faces reflected in the description of the “four living creatures” in Ezekiel 1:10 (and mentioned again in Revelation 4:7):

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle

If you grew up in a church with stained-glass windows, you probably have seen these four faces depicted. And as Bible commentators have frequently pointed out, the four Gospels each emphasize one of these four characteristics of Jesus’ personality and ministry:

LION: Matthew quotes the most Old Testament prophesies about Jesus, presenting Him as the King and the “lion of the tribe Judah.” (regaining our “roar” and seeing a mandate to “reign in life”)

OX: Mark focuses on Jesus as the suffering Servant, coming to obey the Father’s will and serve humanity by laying down His life.

MAN: Luke, as a medical doctor, emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and His concern for those who were hurting.

EAGLE: John presented an “eagle’s eye view” of Jesus’ life and ministry, revealing Him as the living Word of God who existed from eternity.

As Christians living in the 21st century, we are called upon to approach our world with each of these four aspects of Jesus’ nature:

 

  • As LIONS, we need to regain our “roar.” While we’re called to be kings of the jungle—ruling and reigning with Christ (Romans 5:17)—we’ve allowed ourselves to become tame and housebroken. Instead of being conquerors and victors, striking terror in evildoers, we’ve become more like kittens, a threat to no one.

 

  • As OXEN, we must approach our society with the heart of servants. Rather than being known for our angry denunciation of our nation’s shortcomings, we need to offer our love, prayers, and service to make things better.

 

  • As MEN and WOMEN, we must model the humanity and compassion of Jesus for those in need. This means weeping over our city and our nation, even as we call them to repentance (Luke 13:34-35).

 

  • As EAGLES, we must strive to see the big picture and view our world from God’s heavenly perspective. The Lord is calling us to come to a higher place of revelation and wisdom than we’ve had before: “Come up here, and I will show you things…” He is saying again today (Revelation 4:1-2). And in order to have the maximum impact, the church needs “sons of Issachar”—people with prophetic insight, who understand the times and know what God’s people should do (1 Chronicles 12:32).

Jesus said that anyone who saw Him would know what the Father looked like (John 14:9). In the same way, a watching world should be able to know what Jesus looks like by observing the lives of His followers.

The world desperately needs to see Jesus again. But that will only happen if we once again model the face of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. It’s time to roar, serve, weep…and SOAR!

 

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Paying Attention

“Happy is he who considers the poor…” (Psalm 41:1).

Some folks are poor in possessions and appearance; others in faith, hope and love. Even if we can’t alleviate the poverty of those we meet along the way we can “consider” the poor, a verb that means, “to pay attention.”

G.K. Chesterton defines a saint as one that exaggerates what the world neglects, and what is neglected today is the art of paying attention. Few seem to be aware of the pain that exists all around them; they go their way inattentive and unmoved. As Jesus put it in his day, “the love of many has grown cold.”

In such a world it’s not hard to find some misery to alleviate: a divorcee or widow, stricken with loneliness; a weary parent kept awake at night by an unwell child; a frightened man awaiting cancer surgery in the morning; a care–worn checker in a grocery store working a second or third job to make ends meet; a young boy who’s never had enough father; a single mother whose flood of worries has washed her hope away; a lonely old man who believes he has outlived his usefulness; a hurting heart behind your own front door. Perhaps you don’t have much to give, but you can pay attention. You can see beyond what others see to the possibilities of mercy, compassion and understanding.

John Newton wrote on one occasion, “If, as I go home, a child has dropped a halfpenny, and if, by giving another, I can wipe away its tears, I feel I have done something. I should be glad to do greater things, but I will not neglect this.” This is “paying attention.”

One summer, several years ago, I came across a book entitled The Singing Creek Where the Willows Grow. It is the diary of a twelve-year-old child who lived at the turn of the century in lumber camps in western Oregon. As I read Opal’s diary I was awed by her simple compassion and sensitivity. Though abused as a child she was never swallowed up in self-pity, but freely gave herself away. Here’s a brief excerpt from her diary:

When the churning was done, the mama did lift all the little lumps of butter out of the churn. Then she did pat them together in a big lump, and this she put away in the butter box in the woodshed. When she went to lay herself down to rest on the bed, she did call me to rub her head. I like to rub the mama's head, for it does help the worry lines to go away. Often I rub her head, for it is often she does have longings to have it so. And I do think it is very nice to help people have what they do have longings for.

Perhaps today by some act of kindness you and I can rub someone’s worry lines away, for it’s very nice to help people have what they do have longings for.

One last thought: there's an upside imbedded in the beatitude. In the oldest and oddest paradox of all, paying attention pays off for we’re happiest when we're thinking of others. Consider those who think only of themselves, who grasp and grab and play it safe. The life they save is the life they lose. In the end it’s worth nothing to anyone including themselves, a featureless, lifeless parody of those who have lived and cared for others. The only life worth living, it seems, is the one that is given away.

The realm of happiness is easily entered: “Consider the poor.”

DHR

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